Raja Bell signs $10 million deal with the Jazz
Bell, who will turn 34 in September, played in only six games last season with the Bobcats and Warriors before undergoing surgery for a torn ligament in his left wrist. But he is a career 41.1% three-point shooter still capable of solid on-ball defense.
It was anticipated by some, perhaps unrealistically so, that he would play a big part on the Heat’s second unit next season.
Bell’s departure is certainly a loss. The Heat could use a strong defender at the two guard spot, someone also capable of spreading the floor with his outside shot. Yes he is aging and yes his athleticism is undoubtedly declining, but he nevertheless remains solid at what he does best. He figured to play significant minutes for the Heat as a potential replacement for Mike Miller against quicker back-court assignments.
The decision to join the Jazz is quite confounding in some respects.
Bell presumably wanted to play for a good team. With his track record, good teams certainly wanted him. That much is evident from the list of clubs after him, a list which reportedly included the Bulls, Heat, Lakers, Spurs, Trail Blazers and Jazz. If you’re 34 years old and looking to win your first championship before you hang it up, you can’t do much better than either the two-time defending champion Lakers or the future perennial favorite Heat. The Jazz doesn’t seem to offer the ten-year veteran an opportunity to win.
In other respects, however, the decision made quite a bit of sense.
In his ten years of NBA experience, Bell has accumulated a total of $26.9 million. The paycheck received from Utah, which figures to be his last, will increase that total by $10 million, or 37%, over the next three seasons.
Chicago reportedly offered Bell a two-year deal worth in excess of $8.0 million, but the second year of that deal was incentive-laden, and dependent on Bell’s ability to appear in at least 60 games. I guess Raja wasn’t willing to take that risk.
Los Angeles, widely projected to be Bell’s most likely destination, had no cap space, had no bi-annual exception, and used the majority of its mid-level exception to sign Steve Blake; the most the Lakers could have offered for next season was $1.8 million, which equates to roughly $5.7 million over three years. The most the Heat could have offered was a two year deal worth $2.5 million.
In the end, his comfort level with the Jazz and head coach Jerry Sloan – who gave Bell his first prominent NBA role during a two-season stint from 2003 to 2005 – were enough to sway him. That, and 10 million guaranteed dollars.
The irony about all of this is that despite the rumors, I never truly heard the Heat organization take an active interest in the Miami native. Back in May, Bell said he would welcome the opportunity to play for the Heat next season. He was quoted as saying “I’ll tell you like this, Pat. If you can use my services give me a call, I’m right around the corner, 36th and Biscayne. Give me a call.”
I wonder if Pat ever did.